Retaliatory Tariffs and U.S. Agriculture (Paperback)
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Certain foreign nations have targeted U.S. food and agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs since early 2018 in response to U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and Section 301 tariffs levied on U.S. imports from China. Retaliatory tariffs have made imports of U.S. agricultural products relatively more expensive compared to similar products from competitor nations. In the short run, U.S. shipments of products to countries with retaliatory tariffs have declined, reducing overall global demand for affected U.S. agricultural products and driving down the prices of U.S. agricultural commodities. Depending on the length and depth of the tariffs and the range of products affected, some experts caution that the long-run trade impacts could inflict further harm as U.S. competitor countries have an incentive to expand their agricultural production. The total value of exports of U.S. food and agricultural products levied retaliatory tariffs in 2018 was $22 billion, down 27% from $30 billion in 2017. China accounted for about 80% of the total affected trade in both years. Despite the retaliatory tariffs, U.S. agricultural exports rose in 2018 to $140 billion from $138 billion in 2017, partly due to higher imports during the months leading up to the retaliatory tariffs and increased exports to other non-retaliating countries. With the continuation of retaliatory tariffs, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects U.S. agricultural exports to decline about 4% in 2019. While trade-aid packages may provide short-term financial assistance, some studies and critics of the President's actions caution that the long-term consequences of the retaliatory tariffs may present more challenges. Even as China has raised tariffs on U.S. imports, it has improved access to its markets for other exporting countries. Brazil, Russia and other countries are expanding their agricultural production to meet China's import demand. For example, Russia's investments during the past two decades have resulted in agricultural productivity growth ranging from 25% to 75%, with higher productivity growth along its southern region. Although still at relatively modest levels, China's total food and agricultural imports from Russia increased 61% between 2017 and 2018. The continuation of trade disputes and retaliatory tariffs may be of interest to Congress for the following reasons. Trade disputes have disrupted global markets and increased uncertainty in the farm input and output sectors. They may add to production costs, they have dampened exports, impacted farm income, and triggered additional federal assistance for the farm sector. In the short-run, there could be some transient benefits associated with various aspects of the agricultural sector. In the long-run, other countries may expand agricultural production, potentially displacing U.S. agricultural exports to become larger food and agricultural suppliers to China.